Oprah Winfrey? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: Famous talk show host and entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey has suggested that you should have grand visions because you become what you believe. Would you please help me to find a citation?
Quote Investigator: Oprah Winfrey delivered the commencement address at Wellesley College in Massachusetts on May 30, 1997. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1
Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life because you become what you believe. When I was little girl, Mississippi, growing up on the farm, only Buckwheat as a role model, watching my grandmother boil clothes in a big, iron pot through the screen door, because we didn’t have a washing machine and made everything we had. I watched her and realized somehow inside myself, in the spirit of myself, that although this was segregated Mississippi and I was “colored” and female, that my life could be bigger, greater than what I saw.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
Winfrey’s advice was reminiscent of the psychological strategies of creative visualization and positive thinking. During the same speech in 1997 Winfrey suggested that individuals should keep a “grateful journal”:
Every night list five things that happened this day, in days to come that you are grateful for. What it will begin to do is to change your perspective of your day and your life. I believe that if you can learn to focus on what you have, you will always see that the universe is abundant, and you will have more.
The 1998 book “Oprah Winfrey Speaks: Insight from the World’s Most Influential Voice” by Janet Lowe discussed Winfrey’s speech: 2
When Stedman Graham’s daughter, Wendy, graduated from Wellesley College in 1997, Oprah delivered the commencement address. She told the graduates that she’d learned five important lessons that made her life better:
1. Life is a journey. Every day experiences will teach you who you really are.
. . .
5. Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life because you become what you believe.
Winfrey’s words resonated with others. For example, the quotation appeared in the 2001 book “Moving from Fear to Courage: Transcendent Moments of Change in the Lives of Women” by Cheryl Fischer and Heather Waite: 3
In her commencement address to Wellesley College in 1997, Oprah Winfrey said, “Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life because you become what you believe.”
In 2005 “The Ottawa Citizen” of Ontario, Canada reprinted a long excerpt from the Winfrey’s 1997 commencement address; thus, the quotation was further distributed. 4
In conclusion, Oprah Winfrey should receive credit for the inspirational statement in her 1997 speech.
Image Notes: Silhouette of meditating person encircling the sun from cocoparisienne at Pixabay. Image have been resized and cropped.
(Great thanks to Mardy Grothe who included this quotation in “Dr. Mardy’s Quotes of the Week” for May 20-26, 2018. This led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Grothe helpfully pointed to the commencement address.)
- Website: Wellesley College, Article title: Oprah Winfrey’s Commencement Address, Article author: Oprah Winfrey, Date on website: May 30, 1997, Website description: Information about Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. (Accessed wellesley.edu on August 25, 2019) link ↩
- 1998, Oprah Winfrey Speaks: Insight from the World’s Most Influential Voice by Oprah Winfrey and Janet Lowe, Chapter: Looking Ahead, Quote Page 170, John Wiley & Sons, New York. (Verified with scans) ↩
- 2001, Moving from Fear to Courage: Transcendent Moments of Change in the Lives of Women by Cheryl Fischer and Heather Waite, Chapter: Courage and Success, Section: The Ultimate Success, Quote Page 74, Wildcat Canyon Press: A Division of Circulus Publishing Group, Berkeley, California. (Verified with scans) ↩
- 2005 November 19, The Ottawa Citizen, Section: Style Weekly, ‘That’s what life does — teaches you who you are’: Oprah’s lessons in life to Wellesley College grads (From Oprah Winfrey’s commencement address at Wellesley College, May 30, 1997), Quote Page 14, Column 4, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Newspapers_com) ↩